Living for Others: Remembrance & Rebirth

June 13, 2015

To respect the memorials, many of my photos will not be shown, and many of the photos shown can be publicly found online.

Before we took off to the memorial, Kane and Pitts reminded us once again about how emotionally heavy today’s venture will be. I knew that my emotions would be challenged today. I thought that I was stoic enough to endure the memorials without losing my composure. I wasn’t.


At the Entrance we were greeted by a woman, who told us to be silent and respectful while experiencing the memorial. I took off my hat and stuffed it in my pocket. To our sides, we passed a Triangular shaped plain, mounted by two small triangularly shaped gardens, and met the steps. It was a narrow staircase. The design forced a single line, and demanded deliberation. Feeling closed in, trapped, the only unobstructed view was up, and so I looked to the sky. But even that view was limited by tall walls, and curtailed every step down that uneasy descent. Soon my eyes caught sight of a sharp metallic piece. At first I made it out to be a gate. I went toward it. The floor tiles were organized to make any attempts at a leisurely walk an unforgiving experience, so I was again forced to be deliberate with a supposed habitual movement. I looked through the gate and only saw water. My eyes explored the area, and led me to realize that I was barricaded. These walls mean to siege those within. Looking up again, I saw an infinite sky, but the barriers meant I could never experience the world again. It reminded me of being trapped in a well. A moment when water confines, walls oppress, and the sky teases.

Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation Paris
Credit:Paris Walking Tours

Between two Staircases, I entered the Dark narrow into the tomb of the unknown deportee who was murdered at a Camp. I saw before me an eternal fire, bounded by ropes and stands, in front of something magnificent. Behind vertical bars, there is a golden path. Parallel walls, holding Two-hundred thousand glass crystals memorializing each of the two-hundred thousand deportees, and at the end of the passage, a bright and almost palpable light. It was an amazing moment. All at once, my emotions conflicted. It was Hate and Hope, it was the tragedy that continues to this day, it was my participation. I was reminded of the Resistance Museum. Am I to ignore, assimilate, or rise against with the memory from this feeling? Then emotions were followed by another internal debate, the same old Whys, Hows, and Ifs that I’ve been negotiating and interrogating with in past days. I briefly investigated the two short routes on the sides of the chamber, and found myself behind bars both times. I took my leave, after revisiting the Two-hundred thousand. Exiting from where I came in from, and hit by the sunlight I couldn’t resist looking back once again. I took a picture of the path, and followed everyone upstairs.

Mémorial de la Déportation, the Holocaust Memorial in Paris. (Photo by Emiliano) - See more at:

During the same morning, Dr. Pitts informed us about the history and controversy regarding the Memorial. The Deportation memorial is located behind, and almost shadowed by Notre Dame, located at the Center of Paris. France refuses to admit their participation in the deportation of their own, including Eleven Thousand youths that were not even demanded by the Nazis. The plaque that gave history and brief about the tragedy had been taken down. Although the Deportation site inspired emotion within us, we were reminded to recognize those who suffered in silence, still to this day.


After visiting The Shoah Memorial, I reaffirmed and reignited my beliefs and purpose. I was told the Shoah is a prime target for attack by radicals. But I didn’t truly understand the magnitude of fear until I saw the guards. At the front, two Soldiers were armed with FAMAS assault rifles at the ready. They patrolled the front, and their presence made me uneasy and uncomfortable. When I noticed that my peers moved with more control than usual, innocuously communicating with more intent and smiles than usual, I knew that they felt uncomfortable as well.  I tried to meet eyes with one of the guards, but my nerves still trembled. Clearing the security and detectors, I felt at ease inside the complex, but it was short-lived. Encountering the Wall of Names, I felt crowed. My eyes scanned the Walls that commemorated the seventy-six thousand Jews that were deported from France. My mood went half-circle when I was charmingly greeted by the front desk. But again, that too was evanescent. I made my way down the stairs, into the Crypt. I staggered when I first witnessed the memorial. The Perimeter around the dark room was modestly lit, and a grand light centered a bold beam upon the Star of David. On the Star, rest the Ashes of Victims from the Camps. I kept my eyes at the Star of David as I walked around the Memorial, and realized that I shouldn’t be studying this moment. So I sat down at the steps, and faced toward the Star. I closed my eyes, and let my thoughts wander as I empathized and reflected with the moment.

Wall of names of the missing. (c) Mémorial de la Shoah
Wall of names of the missing. (c) Mémorial de la Shoah
Crypt of the Shoah Memorial, Paris (c) Nathalie Darbellay
Crypt of the Shoah Memorial, Paris. (c) Nathalie Darbellay

I tend to speedily scan all the rooms of an exhibition at first round to avoid missing anything, and to note points of interest. This day, I did not make it to the second round. I scanned my way towards the room that would move me in a way that I haven’t felt for some time. There, pictures of countless children surround a few seats at center. Each Child’s picture had their name, their birth date, and the day they were deported, the day they were murdered. I sat there for the rest of the time we had at the Shoah. I made sure I acknowledged each face I saw in that room. There were pictures of them on bikes, playing the violin, smiling with their families, living and posing for the moment, looking straight at the lens, at you. I tried to imagine being in their shoes, reanimating their lives after their picture was taken. I tried to imagine, and I attempted to feel what it felt to be taken away from their families, betrayed by their guardians, barred within deportation trucks, deemed to be unfit, accompanied by others inside the chambers, and their final moments. Each one of these people had a story to tell, had opportunities, and could have become Some One. But the future of these people had been taken away from them, and they were made to suffer because of the Ego and Self-Righteousness that Humanity holds. I was not even a quarter through before tears broke out. Both Kane and Pitt found me and asked how I was during the experience, and I tried my best to hold back and resound a “ Yea I’m good”. Leaving the Room, I realized and knew that my memory could not remember each picture, and that I shouldn’t take this experience as a possession. I became reminded of an adage, a person who loved and yanked a flower out of soil, instead of leaving it be, and appreciating that it was there.  For some reason, there was one frame that I remembered more than rest. I went in and took a picture of the photo, and left. I wanted that image to forever be a vessel for the memory and emotions of my experience in that room. Outside the complex, I felt that the memorial had affected everyone. I don’t know how each person experienced it, but what I do know is that we came out stronger. I trembled for another reason now.

Vogue , Ruins, and Pesky Eiffel Tower Merchants

Although the thoughts of the memorials followed for the rest of the day, there were moments in between and afterwards that gave me a greater appreciation to be where I am. Moments like traveling through the Hot spots of Paris and being….g…g..g..Gargoyles! Snap, Snap, Snap , “Strike a Pose!”. Along with Lowell’s hilarious commentary, the fabulous impersonations of Gargoyles gave everyone a well needed comedic relief.

Credit: Lowell Kane

Lowell Kane and Yvonne Pitts treated us to a delicious meal after everything. Absolutely amazing! I had, I believe it was a form of a Gyro with Merguez, sausage that’s rarely found In the States. Bethany and Kelsey gave me a chance to try it with chicken and another meat. I forget, I just remember it being good.

Later that day I visited the Catacombs with Alex , Holly, Jen, and Molly. The stairs descending down to and up out of the Catacombs were ridiculously long and monotonous. Literally, a tight spiral staircase that took about a good few minutes to distance.  The tunnels were freaking spooky. The beginning passageway was lit by fairly spaced lights, and I still couldn’t make out the turn of each straight.  The rocks were cold, and sometimes moist….I also was met by bars that trapped the darkness and unknown behind it. Yea, I stuck real close to Alex and Jen. Aside from the spooky stuff, the architecture and tomb itself were remarkable scenes. For me, the most memorable sequence through the Catacombs was the never-ending pile of human bones and skulls. They were piled and organized neatly, almost “artistically and aesthetically” remarked one of my peers. I honestly don’t know what was more amazing at some points, the number of bones or the number of people taking selfies with said skulls…including myself. Hopefully, I didn’t bring back no curses. Knock on wood.  Topping off the day by doing the most touristy thing to do in Paris. Chilling and taking selfies by the Wonderful Eiffel Tower, which was more mechanical and bigger than what I imagined. I can only dream of coming back and having a romantic picnic there at night, with a big sign planted by us to deter all the damn relentless street vendors ruining what is to be a romantic and perfect moment.

Credit: Jen Martin
Credit: Alex Nickolas

The following day was Rest and Relaxation. Went to the Market, broiled some good chicken legs , and ate them with old fashioned College Kid Insta-Noodles. Followed by the Best Dinner I ever had. We also saw Vicki there! I had Swordfish for the first time, and was generously given a bite of the most tender and zesty cut of pork in my life, as well as many bites of delicious steak. Thank you Alex and Bethany, <3.It was a great ending to the last days in Paris, and the Trip for that matter.

Thanks for the Memories!

As the final Post, in behalf of the Students of the 2015 Study Abroad, we would like to say Thank You So Much Lowell Kane and Yvonne Pitts for organizing this Life Changing, One in a Life Time, and Exceedingly Educational Experience! From this trip we have directly experienced Activism from Prominent Organizations like ACT-UP and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. We learned to take new perspectives while visiting World Renown Museums, some of which were privately guided by Brilliant Art Historians. Thank you for directly introducing us to Famous Figures, and the Opportunity to Experience the Culture and Life of New York City, Paris, Amsterdam. Most importantly, thank you for inspiring us to believe that we have the ability to make a difference as Activists, and guiding us along the way. Once Again, Thank you, Vicki!

Experiences of a Lifetime— The Louvre and Bastille Market

It was a bustling morning for Purdue today, with the Bastille market and a private tour of the Louvre on the schedule, we promptly started our journey at 9:45 am.  While still feeling the effects of tiredness and exhaustion from the great day at Amsterdam yesterday, it was nice to stroll through the Louvre on this beautiful, very warm Paris day.  The Louvre was amazing— I was not aware of how vastly large the museum was.  It was stunning.

My favorite part of the Louvre is the high ceilings.  I looked up at the ceilings taking in all the beautiful history, color, and 3-D art that hung down from them.  Amazing, breathtaking… the pictures do no justice for the beauty in which this great museum held.  No wonder it was crowded… and let me tell you, there is no air conditioning!  On this rather warm day the Louvre was uncomfortable— BUT worth the while.  I could have walked around staring at the gorgeous paintings, sculptures, and ceilings all day.  My favorite art pieces are sculptures; I am quite fond of the Greek sculptures because I feel that the sculptures speak more than a single caption of life— they speak stories and act as if the movements of life are being caught, not just the talent of the artist.

Purdue had a private tour with a sassy, wonderful tour guide that I absolutely loved listening to.  Giving explanations to some of the more famous pieces of art in the Louvre made the experience even more captivating and special.  The explanations of the pieces were almost scientific sounding.  It was a much different lesson to learn about than with Dr. Katz.  All in all though, they are both fantastic, interesting guides; we are very lucky to of had the chance of a lifetime to learn from two exceptional experts in their fields.

Getting back from the Louvre, the Bastille market is just down the way from the hotel, of course visiting that is always a highlight of a Paris visit.  The smell of fresh baguettes, fish, and dried sausages filled the air while walking through the outside market.  It gets very crowded, very quickly, but very exciting to see the various options of fresh fruits and meat available.  Since a couple of us in the group have gotten a taste for the simple meal of baguette, dried meats, butter, and cheese, we headed to Bastille market to better stock for the future feastings of Paris back at the hotel.  Since I had already bought a large selection of cheese in Amsterdam the day before, it was necessary to find bread, butter, and meat.  While we were not as lucky in gaining those things at the market, we headed to the supermarket to find the various things for our ending days here.  We definitely walked away with some delicious items to share with one another, and if lucky with leftovers, with the people back home.

It’s so beautiful in Paris— I have to keep reminding myself that we only have a couple more days in this wonderful place.  Even while I do laundry, I am looking out the windows of the hotel, trying to take in everything humanly possible to remember later when I am sitting in a desk.  It’s amazing the places one will go and see in a lifetime— and maybe that’s the real thing I’ve learned this trip.  The world is so big and bright—I have learned so much on this trip; about art, activism, history, and I can’t wait to learn more.  I started out this study abroad saying that I wanted to learn more about activism and better Purdue… I can now say it’s no longer about that.  I want to better Purdue and the issues that need to be assessed at there, but it’s so much more than just there.  There’s so much more out there.  And I think that’s the lesson learned; Purdue is only one step, what’s after that? The world.



Pictures from Lowell Kane



Pink Triangles, Useless Socks, and Stroopwafle: Purdue Takes on Amsterdam

Bonjour and thanks  for following our blog! This is Kelsey writing today. Wednesday was a long and action-packed day for our group. We woke up bright and early, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, in order to make it to the station in time to grab some breakfast and catch our 8:16 A.M. train to Amsterdam, Netherlands. I think that we all knew how great of a day it was to be after we had the pleasure of discovering the deliciousness that is Lay’s Poulet Rôti (Roasted Chicken) flavored chips. This delicacy is truly the breakfast of champions and I am quite disappointed in the States for not having this flavor available.


The train ride to Amsterdam was two and a half hours of excitement and anticipation. We enjoyed views of the French countryside and cities in Belgium, including Brussels and Rotterdam. It was fascinating to watch how the architecture changed so drastically from western to northern Europe. In Belgium and Holland, the buildings are very narrow and pushed together—IKEA makes more sense to me now that I see the necessity to fit houseware items into tiny spaces.


Continue reading Pink Triangles, Useless Socks, and Stroopwafle: Purdue Takes on Amsterdam

Indulgence of Food, Queerness, and History

On Monday our group traveled to the apartment of a leading scholar who specializes in the history of sexuality and LGBTQ+ studies. It is amazing how much our perception of sexuality has changed over time. In ancient Greece and Rome, there was considered to be only one sex: male. Female was not a separate sex; rather, the female sex organs were considered to be the opposite of male sex organs. The vagina was an inverted penis. What we know as the ovaries were an unformed version of testicles. This one sex model was used until the 18th century, and we can thank the clitoris for challenging this model. In the single sex model, the vagina was viewed as a backwards penis, but the clitoris was also found to be vaguely penis-shaped. This caused a problem because it was impossible that they both were the penis; such an idea disrupted the mirroring of sex organs and that women were men who were not fully developed. To resolve this issue, the two sex model slowly came into being, removing the idea of the sex organs mirroring each other and giving the world a model that expressed more variability.

After discussing many more fascinating ideas that would take many pages to fill, the scholar (who requested that her name not be listed) served us croissants to whet our appetites for lunch. We were all hungry, so we graciously accepted – one would have to be very full indeed to turn down a fresh croissant! Merci beaucoup – c’était délicieux!

Beautiful view from the scholar’s 7th floor apartment!

Soon after having croissants, we broke for lunch. I had une crêpe sucree au beurre – a delicate pancake with sugar and butter. I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of it, but it was delicious – you’ll have to take my word for it. We had some time to wander around, so a group of us looked through some shops, then walked around enjoying Paris until it was time to meet with ACT UP Paris, where Hugues Fischer gave us another fascinating discussion. The room we met in was much smaller than the room at ACT UP New York, but it was cozy and welcoming, not cramped. Though it was smaller, it did not feel any less safe. There we discussed some actions ACT UP Paris has taken and how it differs from ACT UP New York. One of the most striking actions ACT UP Paris has performed is covering the Obelisk with a giant pink condom, which was placed on the monument with a crane. The condom sported ACT UP’s logo and was designed to increase AIDS awareness. Since it took several days for city officials to remove the condom, it likely accomplished its task.

Passionate Hugues Fischer.

Obelisk au préservatif

A large difference between the two ACT UP groups is that ACT UP New York must fight to lower drug prices to make them more accessible to individuals who need them, while individuals in France have free healthcare that covers the needed drugs. However, an obstacle towards getting Truvada, the only drug that can prevent HIV and AIDS, on the market in France is the poor studies done to test the effectiveness of the drug. ACT UP Paris deemed the studies unethical and so fought against them until more humane methods began to be used, causing a rift between the groups in New York and Paris. However, with new, more humane studies underway, ACT UP Paris has begun to support them, and the rift is healing. Both groups are dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic and supporting individuals living with HIV/AIDS as well as individuals who are at risk for contracting it.

Today we started our journey at the Musée d’Orsay. It took a while to get through the line of people waiting to get in, but the museum was worth it. My first stop was the fifth floor – home of the impressionists. We saw many beautiful paintings by Monet – I love his water lilies. I also spent time in the sculpture garden on the ground floor, where we also saw a few more Monet paintings. Sculpture is beautiful, but Monet has been my favorite for many years, so seeing his work was what I enjoyed the most. We also saw paintings by Van Gogh, Seurat, Renoir, Degas, and many other famous painters. All of us enjoyed the museum and had differing favorite artists. Our varying tastes made the museum experience that much more enriching as we tried to understand why art made each of us feel emotions (or not feel them).

Waiting for the d’Orsay to open!

Our second stop was the Musée de l’érotisme. All of the objects there were fascinating. My favorite artwork was a series of sketches that showed someone drawing a nude portrait or carrying it on their backs. The artists’ hands blended seamlessly into the sketches they drew. My favorite of these was of a hand grasping the breast of the woman he was drawing. It was tender, not possessive – it was as though the artist was saying, “I made you, and you are good.” Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain a photograph.

Silent films added to the air of authenticity of the museum. Some were filmed videos, passionate and loving, others cartoons, funny and silly. I enjoyed being able to hear the movies without sound – though sound has huge and often useful effects on emotion, it was refreshing to be able to watch a video and let myself feel rather than have music set a tone for me.

The outside of the Musée de l’érotisme.

Our final stop was to meet with the Paris order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters is an organization that seeks to bring recognition to the problem of AIDS and other issues facing the LGBTQ+ community – for example, they were the first group to print pamphlets encouraging safer sex and sex positivity, the idea that sex should be seen in a positive light as something enjoyed between two or more consenting adults, not something that should be feared or looked down upon. The Sisters dress as nuns when performing activism. Through this gesture, they created a memorable and shocking picture of themselves. Nuns are seen as kindly and celibate with a desire to do good, stereotypes which complement, and sometimes clash with, the Sisters’ ideals. While both groups want to create a better world, nuns are abstinent, while the Sisters promote having safer sex. Individuals of any sex, gender, or other identity may join the Sisters. This reinforces their idea of inclusivity and creating a better place for all individuals

The Sisters we met, Sister Rose, Sister Mary Nyctalope, and Novice Sister Stephanie, were all wonderful people. Each was sweet, charming, intelligent, and passionate. It’s hard to say whether our group was more excited to meet them, or they us – a humbling feeling for both parties. The Sisters were kind enough to prepare us dinner as we discussed their organization – they provided a spread of bread, cheeses, butter, and meat. It was all delicious, and we were in love with the Sisters by the time we left. Some of us may even choose to become Sisters ourselves one day so that we may continue their important work. Our time with them was precious, and I hope that one day we may meet again.

Our group with the wonderful Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence! On the far left is Sister Rose, on the far right, front row is Novice Sister Stephanie, and behind me (the person with the orange and blonde hair) is Sister Mary Nyctalope. Thank you so much for letting us meet you and take pictures!

Days 7, 8, & 9: There Are No Words

It isn’t often that I am left genuinely speechless, and yet here I am stunned silent with regard to what I have experienced over the course of the past three days. Nevertheless, I shall persist and do my best to elaborate on the events that have transpired. I understand that the wait for this blog post may have been rather frustrating for those following my and my peers’ posts, and I certainly hope that the anticipation is worth the product.

Day 7: A Museum All Its Own

It’s not every day that you hear about a sex museum. Or, perhaps it may be for you, but in my case, I’d never heard of anything quite like it. Going to New York’s Museum of Sex (or, MoSEX, as it’s commonly referred to) was a decision that was made after we discovered that going to the newly reopened Whitney Museum was not possible, and I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I hadn’t done any research on the museum beforehand, and so it wasn’t until we arrived that I began to understand just what I was in for.

We soon received our tickets to enter the exhibits that lay beyond, and I followed the other students down a corridor that led away from a small café and library and up to where the museum really began. The very first thing that I saw was an Anti Onanism Device created by the Ferier Brothers in Paris, circa 1890s. How amazing is that?! Who else today can say that they’ve seen one of these pieces still preserved that isn’t in a photograph?  I was awe-struck, and it took a while for us to convince ourselves to walk away from studying it to further explore the exhibits.

Ferier Brother's Anti Onanism Device. Paris, c.1890s.
Ferier Brother’s Anti Onanism Device. Paris, c.1890s.

There were so many fantastic displays in this museum, from silicone dolls to erotic lithographs and everything in between. I remember actually being disturbed on some level at a display consisting of robots constructed to depict a sort of porn-viewing theater, complete with a video of the robots’ lascivious activities. There may be many messages to take away from that particular piece, but it simply wasn’t my taste.

Continuing upstairs, there was a room that we came to whose walls were covered with information regarding the sexuality of animals, from their genital construction to sexual habits. It was surprisingly informative, and I even found myself thoroughly reading some of the displays, including the “gender swapping” of male seahorses.

It was the final room, however, that I found myself and others having the most fun. Funland was what the carnival-styled room was called. [FUNLAND: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground, is an art installation by renowned London-based conceptual artist duo Bompas & Parr, features a selection of “carnival attractions” for audiences to enjoy and experience while they contemplate the sexual subtext of carnivals.] It consisted of an incredibly disorienting hall of mirrors that we navigated through before opening up to two attractions. The first was a stand where four visitors could compete by rolling two golf balls into a small opening (much like a miniature version of the classic Skee-Ball) to try and get their corresponding erection statue to reach the end of the race quickest (I happened to have won three out of three times I played, a crowning achievement I’m proud to admit).

The second attraction was what captivated the entire group’s focus, though. It was called the Jump for Joy, which was- literally- a bouncy castle of breasts. I was one of the first three people to enter, and I thoroughly enjoyed running around and bouncing on every airy mound.

As for myself, I and a few others decided that what we wanted to do for our afternoon would be to get tattoos as a sort of souvenir for our travels. While initially there were four of us who were getting tattoos, two in our group were unable to do so due to time constraints. Nevertheless, I and another were able to have ours done and the other two declared that they would be perusing Parisian artists as to have an idea of where to go overseas for their tattoos. Surprisingly enough, my tattoo didn’t hurt at all, and I was fortunate enough to have the financial assistance by my friend to make this happen.

My compass tattoo, signifying the journeys I take in life.
My compass tattoo, signifying the journeys I take in life.

It was nearly ten o’clock by the time I arrived back at my dorm room, and after settling in, I was thoroughly prepared to get a good night’s rest in for the long day of traveling in store for me that I knew was to come.

Or, at least I tried to rest… sort of.

Day 8: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

Alright, so we didn’t actually take a train, but it certainly felt as though I was jumping from one mode of transportation right onto another and then another, as the group’s entire Saturday consisted of transiting from Founder’s Hall, to JFK, and finally to Paris, France. It says in our trip’s itinerary that it is recommended that we go to bed EARLY (indeed, in capital letters as to accentuate our instructors’ point), but the anticipation was just too great. I mean, how could anyone sleep knowing that the very next day they would be on their way to one of the most beautiful and cultured cities in the world? Despite having more time to sleep the night before than any other night that we’ve had thus far, I was far too restless to get much of any shut-eye, and initially it came around to bite me in the butt.

The morning started out well; I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from the few hours of sleep I was able to get and was ready to take on the day. The group and I met around 11:45 am and were surprised to discover that our shuttles to the airport were on their way over thirty minutes ahead of schedule.

As quickly as we could, we divided ourselves into two groups, the first to hurry to the first shuttle with Dr. Pitts and the second to go with Lowell.  We were fortunate enough (after having to go through tagging all of our checked luggage, which took more time than it needed to, in my opinion) to be guided to the pre-checked lanes as so we did not have to wait in such horrendously long lines and dig through all of our things to pull laptops out of bags and remove shoes and such.

Checking our bags in. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)
Checking our bags in. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)

Eventually, we located Gate 45 and set up camp, dropping our things off before dispersing to retrieve food and relax for about two hours or so. I was thrilled (though not too surprised) that this plane was much more accommodating than the plane we’d taken to New York from Indiana. There were three aisles, enough leg room to be comfortable, and the seats leaned back (believe me, when you’ve been walking as much as we have and haven’t gotten much sleep in-between, this matters). The in-flight entertainment was… Well, almost nonexistent. Three movies played (the only one of which I cared for was the relatively new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland); however three-quarters of the plane, including our section, did not have power in our remotes and thus could not listen to the televisions. The chicken that I had for dinner was not too bad, albeit a tad strange tasting as far as the sauce went, and for breakfast we were served yogurt with pomegranate bits, granola, and muffin tops, which was immensely satisfying. By then I and most of the group were pretty crabby from not having slept, but after I had finished my meal I seemed to finally realize that I had just flown into France, and the lack of sleep from the past two evenings suddenly didn’t seem to faze me.

Day 9: The Moment I’ve Been Waiting For…

At about six o’clock on the morning of Sunday, June 7, we had landed in Paris. It was exhilarating, knowing that I was in another country, particularly France. Since I was young, I’ve always been fascinated and enthralled by French culture, and being able to literally step into that world seemed so surreal.

Overall, the entire process of traveling through JFK and into the Charles de Gaulle airport was incredibly smooth. Passing through security was a breeze, baggage claim was quick, and the Metro is (in my honest opinion) much easier to figure out than the subway system in New York. Immediately, I recognized that there was much less commotion when moving through the station. Not only that, but the cloth-covered seats were much more comfortable than the plastic counterparts of the New York subway. And, have I mentioned the incredible lessening of noise pollution? I cannot thoroughly express how relieved I was that my ears weren’t assaulted by the cacophonous shrieking of brakes and the yammering of those also waiting on the platform and in the cars.

The ride to Paris wasn’t long, and it only took one transfer before we eventually emerged from the station and were able to walk on the street. I wish I could convey onto you, the reader, the sense of serenity that I felt from that moment and throughout the rest of the day. I didn’t for one moment feel threatened or out of my element, despite how anxiety-prone I am and that I was in a foreign country an ocean away from my home in America.

The trek to the Citadines was short, and because our rooms were not ready, we dropped our bags off into a secure room and headed out to pass the time before we could check in. The marketplace was where we decided to explore first, which was located just down the road from our hotel. It was so grand, spanning several blocks and stocked by vendors selling all sorts of goodies, from food to apparel and accessories. I was surprised at just how marvelous everything was, all handmade or grown. The scents of fresh seafood and fruits were everywhere, and sure enough I became too hungry to resist the appeal of a crepe station, where I had the most delicious crepe filled with savory poulet, fromage, et des tomates (that’s chicken, cheese, and tomatoes for those who don’t understand French).

After that, groups of students split up to do various things. I and two others decided to stop in at a café and do something that I’ve always wanted to do: people watch in Paris. Perhaps it is the most tourist-y thing to do when you visit, but it really is worth it. We put our money together, enjoyed a bit of pizza and a croissant, and sat at our outside table for several minutes to enjoy watching the city wake up, more and more people emerging from their residences to hit the streets.

People watching. (Credit: Alex Nickolas photography)
People watching. (Credit: Alex Nickolas photography)

The group met up after we eventually reconvened in the hotel and checked into our rooms. I personally enjoyed the couple hours of napping that I was able to get before I was rudely roused by my alarm, indicating that it was time to head back down to the lobby to take to the streets once more.

There’s nothing quite like walking in Paris. It’s a stroll, a leisurely pace that everyone keeps up, and it’s something that I hope doesn’t let up as we enter the work week tomorrow. We had the privilege of touring the city, admiring the ornate architecture of buildings, the history written in stone by mortar and bullet holes from battles that seem worlds away. I feel I could never be able to rightfully describe Paris’ splendor and do it any justice. Everything about it is spectacular, even the people whom I have been able to hold small conversations with.

We ended our group tour at City Hall, where we were treated to the sight of the Notre Dame and other historic landmarks as well as La Seine. The group again parted ways, and I headed back to the hotel to share my experiences through this blog.

In front of City Hall. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)
In front of City Hall. (Credit: Lowell Kane photography)

As of this moment, I’m treating myself to free and delicious espresso, hungry for further adventures.

Health and Activism with a Side Dish of Macaroons

by Jen Martin

Yesterday was full of ups and downs. Well, more so for me than anyone else. I guess that’s what happens when you forget about your newly developed allergy to tree nuts and the fact that the famous French macaroons are made using almond powder, which of course lands you on the traffic-filled route straight to the ER.

Remind me to not live in New York, because if I haven’t run into Dr. Pitts and Terri Wilder at the coffee shop I stopped at to seek help. I don’t know if I could have waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Thankfully I am well now and back at the dorm. I am not going to let that unfortunate experience overshadow the great day I had:

I woke up Thursday morning excited and ready to jump out of bed for once. The group was going to visit the Spencer Cox Center for Health, which is a clinic that is dedicated to serving marginalized communities within New York City. The center specializes in treating HIV positive patients, but they also give the best care possible to those who are HIV negative but still need warm and welcoming treatment. We met with Terri Wilder, the director of HIV/AIDS Education and Training at the center. She discussed the center’s role in the fight against AIDS and the principles that the center uses to conduct its activities. Along with that we met two other people who are positive and learned about their experiences living with the virus and how they empower themselves and other people using the Peer Program at the clinic.


In which half of my face is hidden. My tallness didn’t help me here.


As an aspiring doctor, a common theme stood out to me in the presentation: the idea of self empowerment. During the AIDS crisis, many people who had the syndrome felt helpless as their medical providers (if they even had any) were not providing sufficient information about the virus and treatment options. Ultimately, the patients took it upon themselves to learn about the virus and push for the availability and accessibility of potential treatments. One of the people who discussed their life with HIV emphasized that he got the best care when the doctor acted as a professional advisor who would readily give all the information requested so that the patient can make an informed health care decision that would best suit himself, unlike his past providers who merely threw him a prescription without any initial disclosure. This made me realize that my role as a doctor shouldn’t merely be treating a patient, which sounds more akin to dealing with a burden, but rather that I should work with my patient. After all, they are a person, and not a problem, and I need to support them.

We ended our meeting with a brief tour of the Spencer Cox Center for Health and took a break for lunch before meeting with ACT UP to reflect on our experience Wednesday and discuss future activism possibilities.



The meeting was phenomenal. I would love to tell you all about what we discussed, but we would be here for days. However, one thing I want to stress is that there is nothing like having the insight of long time activists who moved the country, then continued to fight against AIDS even when America deemed it not a problem anymore. With their counsel, we were able to identify key problems that the LGBTQ community of Purdue face and how to properly address them so that campus can be a safer and healthier place not just for queer students, but for everybody. To see the faces around the room light up in optimism for the future was heartwarming, and it would not have happened if it weren’t for the encouragement of the ACT UP members. So if there are any members reading this, I would like you to know that as a group and as individuals we greatly appreciate you sacrificing your time to meet with us, because you have inspired us to work harder than ever before to fight for what we need. I hope to keep in touch with you throughout the years, and I also sure hope that you inspire the young activists you will meet in next summer’s study abroad team.

After long and heartfelt goodbyes, we left the LGBT Center to visit the New York Public Library. While we waited for our appointment, the group found entertainment with taking picture of the deathly skinny stone lions and exploring their creative sides at the free art table outside.


Seriously, the person feeding him needs to be replaced immediately.


Once we entered, I was surprised to see such an exquisite interior. The atmosphere screamed scholarly and formal, which was much different than the Lesbian Herstory Archives we visited earlier this week. And unlike the Herstory Archives we were not allowed to examine the materials in person (we were shown a digital slideshow of some objects), and upon further research I found that accessing the material in the Gay and Lesbian archives within the NYPL proved to be complicated. I honestly find this a shame since who knows how much of our history is waiting to be uncovered. For example, we were presented a video about DiAna DiAna, who was a hairdresser that was dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV in her South Carolina community. A black woman started a campaign that provided safe sex information to thousands of people within and possibly beyond her community, and there is no doubt that without her HIV would have spread throughout South Carolina much more quickly and effectively. Yet I have never heard of her before visiting the NYPL. Increasing accessibility to this sort of material within the NYPL would empower people of color within the LGBTQ community and enable us to write a history in which people of color get the recognition they deserve. This information shouldn’t be restricted to “important” scholars, but it needs to make public.


At least we got our fair share of leather daddies.


Yet, judging from the presentation, it’s still amazing that someone bothered to store this information, given that many other would have happily destroyed it. So that counts for something.

After a brief tour of the library we were set free to roam the city as we young millennials were born to do. I accompanied my friend Alex (who wrote the amazing blog post before mine) to get her second tattoo. She got hers of an upside down triangle, to both represent ACT UP’s activism and to reclaim it as a positive symbol, as in the Holocaust a black triangle labeled someone who was “asocial”, which included lesbians due to their refusal to be intimate with the oh-so strong German men and become Aryan baby makers. Despite it’s simplicity, I find the tattoo powerful, especially since Alex had to go through a fair amount of pain to acquire it. My, you should have seen her poor face!


The resolution of this picture doesn’t do this justice, but still a rad tattoo.


It was after that we decided to get dessert and I had the misfortune of eating the Nutella macaroon. But I won’t go into that.

Even though I introduced my post with the ups and downs statement, Thursday had more ups and downs. But I think it’s about time for us to leave New York City. Given that I had to be hospitalized and Alex’s cab got rear ended,  maybe the city is trying to kick us out. Oh well, to Paris we go!

I’ll be sure to avoid the macaroons there.


Or else I’ll end up like this again.

Day 5: Rally Cries, Heavy Hearts, and a Fabulous Wig

Today was the fifth day in the great city of New York. I groggily awoke to the melody of my alarm in a state of anger, because I am the farthest thing from a morning person, but my mind instantly remembered the importance of today, for it was the day of my first demonstration with Act Up. As I put on my Act Up gear, I couldn’t help but imagine what it was like for the founders of Act Up on their first demonstration. Did they have as many butterflies in their stomach as I did? I quickly erased any fear in my mind as we listened to the powerful words of Jim Eigo in the LGBT Community Center. He reminded us the key objectives of our demonstration that was to take place at noon. While he explained the history of the epidemic and Chelsea clinic’s situation,  I could feel the sense of urgency grow in the room. I could see the anger, fear, and pain in the eyes of those who have lived through the first epidemic, and are watching as a new one could soon unfold. My anger soon turned to confusion, if the city has the means to prevent another outbreak, why are they not saving their people? Why do these companies charge unreasonable prices for medication that keeps HIV positive people alive? Are there really people in this world that would rather make money off of this epidemic than eradicate it?

My confusion, frustration, anger, and passion boiled inside of me as we made our way to the demonstration. I never thought I would be involved in a protest, much less a “die in”, but as I lay on the cool concrete of the sidewalk surrounded by my classmates, something sparked inside of me. I could feel the energy of Act Up members who have passed standing with us, filling the air with a very present electricity. The chants flowed out of my chest, but these were not just my words. Our words were for everyone who is affected by the ignorance of the city. Our words were for all those who have died because they couldn’t get help from a clinic, and for those who will be affected because of this clinic closing. Participating in this demonstration is not just for our own personal gain; this demonstration has a much bigger meaning. Our demonstration could save hundreds upon thousands of lives that could be taken because there is no working alternative in place for the renovation of the Chelsea clinic, if the city chooses to ‘act up’. As the demonstration came to a close and we made our way back to the center with a raw throats from shouting the words that could change a city, a feeling of calm swept over me. I had never in my life been a part of something that could directly change and save peoples lives. While our demonstration might not have an immediate change on the outcome of the Chelsea clinic, it provided me with hope that the city will work to create an alternative for the safety and health of its residents.


Within a dimly lit room of the center, a slideshow educated us about what AIDS truly is. I could feel the passion that rose from James Krellenstein’s chest as the charts and graphs from the CDC show how this epidemic is not over. It is a battle that is still being fought, and the numbers don’t lie. I learned that certain populations were more at risk, and how AIDS in itself is racist, targeting the African American population, especially trans women of color. The explanation behind this phenomenon is both easy and hard to define and is a topic I thoroughly look forward to investigating. Learning the statistics of this virus took an emotional toll on me. It is a disease that is threatening the community that I hold so dear to my heart. There is a way to eradicate this terrible virus, and it is my generation’s job to work as hard as we can to remove this plague from our community and our world. Walking back to our dorms with a heavy heart, I thanked every person that has had any part in Act Up in my head. Without this organization, I can’t imagine what the epidemic could have looked like.

The heaviness of my heart slowly lifted as the excitement for our theatre outing came closer. As we stand in line for the show, Darren Criss’ made up eyes watched from the side of the Belasco theatre, almost a warning for the intensity of the show I was about to witness. In a packed theatre with a very excited group surrounding me, the first chords of the show started off with a bang, and quite a fabulous wig. I saw as an actor I adored on television as a teen turn into a magnificent Hedwig, with all of her glory. Within the brilliant acting of the cast, it became so obvious to me how performative gender truly is. The roller coaster of a script filled my heart with both joy and sorrow. While we laughed at the mishaps of a trans woman in the 60’s, we watched the heartbreak that is all too real for trans women from past and present. A line that struck close to home flowed eloquently from Hedwig’s painted lips, “I laugh, because I will cry if I don’t”. Within the LGBTQ+ community, times of heartbreak seem unavoidable with the society we live in, but we must stand strong in the face of adversity, just as Hedwig did.

Going to sleep tonight, I hope to have dreams filled with the energy I felt today in City Hall Park. It is days like today that remind me how privileged I truly am to be on this trip with such amazing professors and students. I can slowly but surely feel my sense of self becoming stronger and more resilient each day we spend with fascinating people who are kind enough to give our group a portion of their time and knowledge. I will leave you with these parting words in light of our demonstration; ACT UP. FIGHT BACK. END AIDS!

Day Four: Lesbian Herstory Archives

by Brit Hemphill.

After some much-needed rest following a busy day of ACTing UP and visiting the Stonewall Inn, we met downstairs in the lobby to further digest yesterday’s experiences. We spoke about the inability to comprehend the body count of the AIDS epidemic and the frustrations we share with the government for their severe benign (some might argue against benign) neglect. Then we broke for a short break before making our way to our first event of the day.

The weather continued to be a pain—spitting rain all day and a bit chilly for early June, but we persevered and took two subways (we’re pretty much pros at following Lowell and Dr. Pitts now) to the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn.

There we met Deb Edel—one of the founding members of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. She was a sweet, charming woman in stripes who welcomed us with cookies and tea, instantly making us feel at home. We settled into a room full of books from floor to ceiling, accented with artifacts and photographs scattered about.

Deb shared with us a brief history of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. The Archives started in 1974 by a group of dedicated individuals who were not librarians by trade, but had spent much time in libraries. In the early 1970’s, to investigate the history of the LGBT world, one would have to basically out themselves to a librarian to receive material.

Many thought this was too much exposure and found the white-glove policies of handling archives to be troublesome. That’s where this strong group of mostly gay women and men came in. Deb told us that they “made a very deliberate decision for this (the Lesbian Herstory Archives) to be a people’s history to be touched and felt.” The purpose of the Archives is for one to “get their hands dirty” and be able to explore international lesbian history in a hands-on type of way.

We were then given a tour of the Archives, which spanned a beautiful three-story building (the top floor is the living quarters for someone who takes care of the building). Room after room, closet after closet, and hallway after hallway were filled with materials. Many of the materials are filed away by the woman’s first name to help dismantle the patriarchal implications of identifying a woman by her last name.

I was amazed by the sheer amount of archived material the Lesbian Herstory Archives has. There wasn’t just non-fiction and fiction books—there were biographies, photographs, interviews, periodicals, clothing, buttons, posters, a piece of a strap-on (yup), and much more. One of their current projects is digitizing 3,000 cassette tapes of interviews and recordings of women’s events from all over. These women work hard to continually improve and add to the Archives, and are all volunteers. Their sheer goodwill and dedication impressed me.

After our tour, we had the opportunity to poke around the Archives and do some of our own research. I took a look at the endless ACT UP materials, while others looked at lesbian pulp fiction, sexology, witchcraft, and much more. Any and all subjects were covered in the Archives.

Following the Archives, we were all set free for the day to do as we pleased. Some of us took naps to gather up our strength from yesterday and tomorrow’s big day. Others shopped, went for some casual drinks at the Stonewall Inn, or explored the city on their own. Now, as I write this twenty past ten pm, we are feverously working on signs for tomorrow’s action. The excitement in the room is palpable.

An Introduction to Activism

By Molly Weber

Day 3 into our trip. For the past couple days, it has been almost unbearably hot in New York, so I decided today would be a good day to dress lightly. I would realize my mistake several times throughout the day, as it was wet and rainy for the majority of the time we spent outside.

The rain caused a change in itinerary for today’s adventure. We were supposed to start the day with a tour through the Village, but instead we visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which had recently become host to an exhibit called Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945. The exhibit focused on Paragraph 175, which detailed situations in which participating in homosexual activity could be punishable by law. One thing that really struck me about this exhibit was the Nazi propaganda that was used to advertise brotherhood and loyalty between German “Aryan” men – to me, it seemed like the many depictions of buff, handsome men holding hands and smiling would actually be appealing to a gay male audience.

As a classical studies major, I was also interested in the financial incentives and awards that would be given out to women for having many strong, “Aryan” children. There was a picture of a woman receiving a gold Mother’s Cross for bearing eight strapping young lads. In Augustan Rome, the Caesar would increase taxes on unmarried men and women and would give rewards to women who have more children in order to increase the citizen population. I believe that my generation was raised to think of fascism as something undesirable and scary without really understanding it, but this connection helped me realize more clearly what fascism is and its relation to ancient history.

Unfortunately, the Museum of Jewish Heritage would not allow any photography of the inside of the building (all the previous pictures were found through Google). However, they did allow me to take this picture of the distant Statue of Liberty through the rainy window.

We then traveled to Stonewall Inn to meet with Tree Sequoia, a veteran of the Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969, which is considered by many to be one of the incendiary events for the gay liberation movement and the fight for LGBTQ rights in America. As we neared the building, we passed through Christopher Park to view the Stonewall Inn memorial.

Myself and another student had presented on the Stonewall Uprising and its effects earlier that morning, but nothing we read or watched had been able to tell me what it was like to be one of the protesters during the riots. Tree was very informative and enjoyed sharing his knowledge with our class, welcoming any and all questions we posed. Our visit was short because of time constraints but it was very interesting and exciting to be able to sit inside such a historic place (the bar is still in business, so I will definitely return when I can legally drink alcohol in the US).

After visiting with Tree, we were free to have lunch (finally!). I had my first New York slice and several of us got dessert at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.

After our short lunch, we walked to The Center, the New York City LGBT community center, where we met with Jim Eigo of ACT UP NY to discuss activism and the history of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power). We were joined later by Brandon Cuicchi, current member of ACT UP NY, and Brent Nicholson Earle, founder of A.R.E.A., the American Run for the End of AIDS, Inc. Brandon spent his time engaging us in learning the basics of activism, while Brent told the long-winded but very entertaining story of his twenty month run around the periphery of the United States. (Pictured below, Jim Eigo on left and Brent Nicholson Earle on right.)

After a delicious dinner at Empire Szechuan Village, we returned to The Center for an official ACT UP NY meeting. We spent three hours learning about important LGBT issues in the New York area and coming up with slogans to use for protesting the closing of the Chelsea clinic. I won’t go into much detail because ACT UP NY’s activities will be discussed further in a later blog post.




By Holly Fitzpatrick

It’s been two days in New York City, but it still feels too much like a dream to be real. To be fair, traveling was much more stressful than I anticipated (flying was the easy part, but getting to the NYU dorms and checking in really drained my energy). I found myself grateful, for once, for the uncomfortable, anti-bedbug twin dorm mattresses, as I slept, excited to begin the hands-on learning.

In the morning, we met with Dr. Jonathan Katz, who promised us an illuminating tour of the MET and the Leslie Lohman Museum.


Beginning with the art of Greek and Roman antiquity, Katz emphasized that what seems like one thing to us may actually be something entirely different. Social attitudes are heavily influenced by culture and time period. For instance, the practice of pederasty may be labeled as homosexual activity today, but in reality, there was no difference for an Athenian man to have a sexual relationship with a woman, a boy, a slave, or a prostitute.

This being said, it is still incredibly infuriating for the museums (which are funded by wealthy, upper-class patrons) to ignore the issue entirely. The following drinking cup, attributed to Douris ca. 470 B.C.E., was captioned by the MET as “it is difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, to characterize the situation precisely.” The political tone of such a piece emphasizes the fear that people in power have of marginalized groups. Even today, women with free agency, especially when engaging romantically with one another, are dangerous, political criminals worthy of erasure.


Moving on to modernist art, Katz emphasized that, above all else, art is not a window into reality, instead, art is a construction. The artists that we focused on were ones who refused to cater to the dominant culture of the time (or if they did, it was only for survival). Some artists, like Edgar Degas, depicted everyday femininity, refusing to submit to the traditional nude (created for the wealthy, male gaze). Ultimately, it is important to note that the church often payed the bills for artists. Resistance and eroticism had to be depicted so that it could survive the church.

The MET had its modern art section closed, so instead of touring the Leslie Lohman Museum, we went to the MOMA after lunch. I had a bagel, and needless to say, it was delicious.


Modern art is meant to be expressive, but deliberately so. Katz spoke of the painstaking detail that went into even Jackson Pollock’s work. This brings up an interesting point, however: male modern artists began working with manly tools, and their expressiveness allowed them even more connections within the art world. Women, on the other hand, are seen as naturally expressive; a woman using her expressiveness as a career meant that she was unintelligent. It is indescribably infuriating to know that the same thing men were praised for in the art world, women were despised for.

Helen Frankenthaler, Jacob’s Ladder 1957

Some modern female artists took art off the walls and onto the floor. These women melted traditional art down to its components, which allows for numerous interpretations of female frustration; women’s work is on the floor, lower than men’s work.

The day ended by talking about Andy Warhol. Katz described him as sophistically un-schooled, and refusing to acknowledge the distinction between fine art and commercial art. Before today, I had never questioned the significance of Campbell’s soup: they all have similar labels from the same company, but are all fundamentally different. Katz also, funnily enough, pointed out the camp that Warhol infused into his Campbell’s soup art. Warhol was also very interested in the distinction between the social and the private: he only depicted Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, and Elvis Presley after they suffered public scrutiny. Katz emphasized that the distinction between public persona and private life is something that queer people know all too well, something that is necessary for survival.